Sunday, December 25, 2011

Monday Musings - 26th Dec, 2011

Hey everyone! Hope you all had a great Christmas (or any other holiday you celebrate)! Me? Well my internet's been down this holiday season but I worked out a way to make sure they were musings none the less. Call it my gift to you. Let us muse.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

I don't know if it was necessarily a gaming funk or just the annoyances I experienced in the Lanaryu Desert last week but things were looking up the past seven days. I just saved the game this morning outside the pirate hangout on the sand sea. Yes, I've covered quite a bit of ground since I last wrote. I'll try and list my experiences because there is a lot i'd like to discuss.

The Lanaryu dungeon was a bit of a letdown after how much I enjoyed the Earth Temple. I think it was a combination of overuse of the running mechanic (and the stamina bar), and the annoyance of all the puzzle involving the new item you gather in that dungeon (i'm purposely not saying what the items are when discussing these dungeons as at least for me, part of the magic of a Zelda dungeon is discovering what new toy you get to play with). It's a shame really as I was praising how cool the time stones were last time. There were some neat enemies though. I really liked dealing with the sentries, both the tower variety and the flying ones. The jumping totem pole heads I did not enjoy as much.

From this boss onward I have started to notice a pattern in how I play the game (and maybe this design is on purpose). You start out usually with full hearts, and I think due to this and not exactly knowing what the boss has up its sleeve, I tend to charge head first into danger, and before I know it, I am not at full hearts anymore (quite the opposite in fact). From this point onward, I get a lot more defensive, keeping my distance from the boss, or at least jumping in and out, trying to provoke an attack so I know what I have to do to counter and put the hurt on it. The last boss I fought in the Ancient Cistern was a great example of this. I defeated it with two hearts left. It was a crazy battle that had me swearing at my television on more than one occasion.

Now the Ancient Cistern dungeon is pretty much the exact opposite of the Lanaryu one. This was a delight to play through. Part of the reason was how centralized it was being more about different levels of the main room, and a few offshoot rooms, but I think the real joy was all the clever uses of the item you acquire in the dungeon. This led to one or two Eureka moments where I thought to myself, “Hmm, I wonder if I can pull this off”, and it worked. Follow that up with the item you get for passing the next trial and indeed the game is making up for having to power through the intial run of Lanaryu desert.

One final thing i'd like to talk about are the trials. The first one was a unique encounter. I found it tense, and there was a real sense of accomplishment when I completed it (especially because I ran out of freeze time with two spirit tears left). After completing it I thought to myself, “Wow that was intense. I enjoyed that, but never want to go through that again.” Those of you who know the game are laughing now. When I got to the second trial, I wondered what new gameplay awaited. Well the joke's on me. It was the same trial in a new location, this time in the sinking sands of the Lanaryu desert. Now i'm really dreading the final trial when I get to it.

So having just had a lot of fun on the sand sea and with the mine carts, and having been amazed at the design of the Ancient Cistern and looking forward to the next dungeon, i'm fully back on board with Zelda. Heck, I even enjoy the harp and how you play it. Sure it doesn't have as much fidelity as the ocarina or the conductor's wand, but the songs are great (especially the song of the goddess). I kind of want to power through and finish though. I've got three out of the five must play games off my list of releases for 2011 waiting for me when this is through (El Shaddai, Arkham City, and Bastion). I can see my 2011 year taking me right into at least Q2 of 2012 (which isn't a terrible thing really. I spent most of this year playing games from years passed).

Regardless, Zelda does feel right around Christmas time, even though Christmas down under does not put this American in the holiday spirit (what can I say? I miss snow).


Well because of no internet, I haven't had the resources to look for an indie game this week. Thus what I shall do is talk about some iphone titles I have been playing (because I always seem to forget to mention them on this column and that's just not right.

Blueprint 3d (IoS)

Iphone games don't usually grab me like Blueprint has, but I powered through all the available level packs and even the Christmas pack that became available in an update not too long ago. I guess it's easy to see why. Each level takes a few seconds and I find this title incredibly stimulating to my brain, or at least the visual recognition parts of it (maybe it's the cartoonist in me). You start a level with a bunch of scribbles and fills. By rotating the blueprint, you line up the squiggles, lines, and fills until they resemble an image. Then you get stars depending on how fast you created the image and move on to the next blueprint.

It's simple, addictive, and has a lot of content. These are some of the items on the checklist of a good iphone title. The funny thing was even though solving a level in a couple seconds is very rewarding, the real fun came with the levels where the image wasn't readily apparent and it took close to a minute to rotate and shift the picture, trying to work out just how the thing fit together. Now those who read my blog probably know my stance on difficulty, but seeing how these levels were the most fun, I decided perhaps I needed to up the difficulty. I turned it to pro mode. I instantly turned it back. Pro mode has different layers you need to switch between to line up the image. They made it needlessly complicated, and really, I was still having fun when I was completing a level in seconds.

Bike Baron (IoS)

Since I last played this game (I was busy with Blueprint for a couple weeks), there has been an update making the game a lot easier with more checkpoints and little changes (like allowing you to keep coins if you crash). These changes allowed me to make my way through the entirety of the hard levels... but trying extreme, in my opinion, the fun was sucked out of the game through those designs. For instance, to get to the first checkpoint in the first level of extreme, I had to glitch the game, so my motorcycle was stuck in the wall, allowing me to fall straight.

Still, everything I played up to that point was great and if I ever get the itch again, I can go star collecting in the easy and normal stages.

Final Thoughts

Well it's the end of the year. Last year I posted my top 6 games of the year and it was very popular. I've posted my top games of the year in some form or another since 2007 (2010 was the first time on this blog). This week keep a look out for my picks of 2011.

Now followers of the musings will probably say, “Hey Dave, you haven't really played enough titles this year to have a good top list”, and to that I would say you're absolutely right. What i'm going to do this year is have three categories with one winner, and a couple of runner ups (probably 2 – 3). The categories will be:

'Game I most want to play from 2011 that I haven't'

'Best game i've played released in 2011'

'Best game i've played this year'

I already have my winners but the runner ups i'm still working out. I'd say expect this one between Wednesday and Friday.

If you have your own picks for these categories, please feel free to post em, either in reply to this musings, or on the end of the year post later in the week. I'm interested to see what other people really enjoyed from this year (as it was a great year for gaming).

Till next time, happy gaming all!

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